Thursday, February 9, 2012
Longwood Gardens. Once that gig was complete, it was into the car for a short two hour drive to the Atlantic Coast and one of my favorite seaboard locales, Barnegat Light, New Jersey. There I met up with a friend from The Blogosphere, Amy of Chatter from the Wren's Nest. That's Amy glassing the waters of Barnegat Bay and being bedazzled by all of the interesting waterbirds.
But the Harlequin Ducks can nearly always be easily found, as their diet consists of much more sedentary prey. Here, a small feeding flock works the waters just off Barnegat's long stone jetty.
These ducks were nearly at my feet, perched on rocks at the base of the jetty. And they are literally standing on their food. Low tide has exposed thickets of blue mussels, Mytilus edulis, a common North Atlantic mollusk. Harlequins are very much birds of the brutal interface of sea and rock, expertly diving in the turbulent waters to exploit mussels in a nearshore zone that other species of sea ducks shun. Such rough work has its costs. Supposedly a fair number of Harlequin Duck museum specimens show evidence of bone fractures, probably due to battering against rocks in the surfy chop in which they ply their trade.